Yoga for PMS

Here’s one for the ladies! ❤ We’ve all been there. They are so so painful! here is a sequence to help relieve some of your period pains.

For more information on things you can do to get rid of/relieve menses pains, recipes, and more follow the link here

Pose of the Week: Triangle

trikonasana

Triangle Pose

TRIKONASANA

Benefits:

  • Relieves stress & anxiety
  • Aids to back tension and pain
  • Strengthens thighs, ankles & knees
  • Stretches abdominal muscles that assist better digestion.
  • Good for sciatica, osteoporosis, & flat feet

Asana Break Down:

Begin in Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II), straighten front leg and extend forward, hinging your torso over your front thigh. Allow your front hand to find a block, shin or the floor. If your hands are placed on the floor, make sure your hand is firmly placed palm touching the ground or remain on your fingertips without compromising your thumb. Some people even like to allow their hand to free float by their shin or ankle, using their core muscles to maintain the integrity of this asana. Allow your other hand to reach towards the sky.

Next, we want to align the body by twisting deeper in the pose. To do this, imagine someone was pressing into your hand that is in the air and encouraging you to twist your lower ribcage forward. Head should align with the line of the spinal chord. Draw shoulder blades closer to one another and check your torso’s alignment over your front leg. Often, people will puff their chest forward and either collapse their ribcage or put their body dramatically off balance. Make sure the center of your torso aligns with the center of your front leg. Allow there to be a mirco-bend in the front leg so that you don’t hyper extend. Back hip muscle should descend down towards the ground. Allow the back body to lengthen. Take your gaze towards the sky.  ❤

Be Here Now

being

Being is not knowing. I first heard these words from Harville Hendrix, PhD and it struck a chord in me. As a yoga teacher and someone who wishes to pursue a spiritual path I have found that spirituality has seasons. There are many days where I don’t want to practice yoga or I don’t want to sit and meditate. That’s just human. But knowing is not being. So knowing the Sanskrit of a pose and all of the minute mechanical movements of each asana, is not the same as showing up on the mat with an authentic, devotional heart. It’s not. I know because I have spent so much of my life living outside of the present that I have become so cerebral in my practice that I sometimes practice without heart. Knowing is not being. Yet, being is knowing. To show up in your life in each unfolding moment is a beautiful and challenging thing. Become what you seek. For what you seek is surely seeking you. It may not find you through the mind however, but through the heart instead. How do you become what it is you are seeking? I once asked this question through the lens of spirituality having seasons to a guru of mine. I said, “It seems to me like spirituality has seasons. Some seasons are abundant and I feel a deep connection to source and my practice. Other seasons feel depleted and I don’t want to practice at all. How do I continue to flourish when my practice is full and honor it when it is weak?” And he replied, “Spirituality is like a tree. It does not bare fruit in every season, but it needs to be watered every day.” Where can you water yourself more in this life? How can you become the most authentic version of yourself? 

Knowing is not being, but to be is to know. ❤

Yoga for Sleep

It seems to me that the busyness of our lives seems to take hold of us into the night. This can make it hard for us to fall asleep or have good sleep. As requested by a friend of mine, here are pm yoga techniques to help you fall asleep and stay asleep:

Yoga Sequence

Meditation

The best way I have found to relax the body is through meditation. After a long day, take time to sit in a comfortable position on the floor or in a chair. Put on a tape and listen to your favorite meditation (mine is Deepak Chopra, which you can buy on iTunes or listen to for free on spotify) or sit in silence. If you don’t have much time, set a timer. This goes for any point during the day when you need to schedule rest, even if it is for only 5 minutes, take time to sit with yourself. Allow the mind to become focused and calm. You do not have to worry about trying to make all the thoughts in your head stop. Just take a moment to take the back seat view of them, just observe them. Focus on your breathe and let that be the foundation of your awareness.

You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes everyday, unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.” ~Old Zen Saying

Candle Gaze

Light a candle by the side of your bed level with your third eye and look at it until you blink. Once you blink, blow it out. This will set an action of drawing the mind into the meditative state and set an intention that it is now time to sleep.

Reclined Breathwork

There are two things that can be done here.

  1. Lay on your right side. Take 7 deep, long breathes. Switch to the left side. Take 7 deep, long breathes. Return to the right side and take 7 deep, long breathes. Most people fall asleep before they finish this routine.
  2. Bellows Breath: Bellows breath, also known as Bhastrika, can best be described as a the bellow used to fan the flames of a fire. To begin this pranayama, lay in a comfortable position, sit up in your bed or on the floor. Begin by taking in a deep breath and then exhaling forcefully through the nose. Continue to breath this way 10-100 times before bed. Generally start with 10 of these breathes. Once you have done 10 breathes for a week you can move to 20. Once you have done 20 breathes for a week you can move to 30 and so on.

Yoga Nidra

When I am having a hard time falling asleep, one of my favorite things to do is listen to a Yoga Nidra meditation. The word Nidra means sleep and Yoga means union, so really this translates into Union with sleep. It is a systematic method to relax the body and calm the mind. Here’s a link to one of my favorite ones:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pfIikxpis9s

Pose of the Week: Extended Puppy Pose

puppy pose

Extended Puppy Pose

UTTANA SHISHOSANA

The body is my temple, asanas are my prayers.”

~ BKS Iyengar

Benefits of the Pose:

  • Relief spinal & neck tension
  • Relieves chronic stress, tension, and insomnia 1
  • Strengthens arms, hips, and upper back 1
  • Opens shoulders
  • Opens heart

Asana Breakdown:

This is a great gentle stretch and restorative pose. It’s very simple and easy to get into. In a Yin practice this pose is referred to as anahatasana, which means heart-melting pose 2. To get into it, begin in Downward Facing Dog (Adho Muhka Svanasana) and drop down onto all fours, checking your alignment of shoulders, wrists, knees, and hips: Shoulders should be stacked above wrists, hips above knees. Extend your arms out in front of you. Keep your arms active, being sure that they don’t touch the ground. Curl your toes underneath you. Allow the head to relax, coming to the floor, a blanket, or a block. Allow the collar bones to spread away from one another.

As the chest opens up, allow your heart to melt towards the floor. Notice, the tendency here is to compromise the lower back by dropping the ribcage too low. Take a moment here to wrap the ribs in closer like they were going to fold onto the sternum. Tailbone should descend here, activating Mula Bandha and Uddiyana Bandha. To activate these locks within the body, feel as if you tightening a belt a notch or two tighter than usual, causing the belly to move upward and in.

Bandha-Basics

Image from: http://bluezeliayoga.com/tag/uddyana-bandha/

Ultimately, this is a yummy pose and should feel really safe and comfortable to the body, take a moment to get settled into the pose, making micro adjustments to find your sweet spot. Find your breath here and breathe deep. ❤

Sources:

  1. “The Health Benefits of Uttana Shishosana (Extended Puppy Pose) | CNY Healing Arts Wellness Center & Spa.” CNY Healing Arts Wellness Center Spa The Health Benefits of Uttana Shishosana Extended Puppy Pose Comments. CNYHA, 25 Feb. 2011. Web. 06 Oct. 2015.
  2. “Extended Puppy Dog Pose – Uttana Shishosana | GaiamTV.” Gaiam TV. Gaiam TV, n.d. Web. 06 Oct. 2015.

Let Go of All Your Efforts: The Continual Practice

smile

When I first found my devotional practice, I have to admit I yearned to be enlightened. For me that was the ultimate goal. The Sutras speak of the Siddhis and benevolence that is obtained by the enlightened and I wanted it so deeply. Ever fiber of my being wanted to know what the great sages know and become untangled from the intensity of day to day life.

When I asked one of my teachers how to become enlightened, he replied,”Enlightenment is like a joke, it’s like a fish looking for water….We are all one, so really, when you think about it, either we are all enlightened or none of us are enlightened.” I sat with knowledge for a long time, understanding it, without knowing how to incorporate it into my life.

As the seasons started to change, I let my practice slip away along with my ideas of enlightenment. Now that I have come back to my practice with new breath, I see that my goals have shifted. Enlightenment is not what draws me back to my practice day after day, I don’t take my breathes with the hope of finding nirvana in the apex. So if enlightenment is not the goal what brings me back?

Well, today when I came to my meditation practice, anticipating my feelings of boredom and reluctancy which often appear halfway through, I recalled Iyengar’s words in Light on Life about how enlightenment is not the goal of yoga. I prepared to lie down for Sivasana and decided just enjoy my time with myself, regardless of whether or not I would enter into deep meditation. As I made myself comfortable on the ground, my awareness went to the sounds around me. At first, I could hear everything clearly and suddenly the noises began to fade until I was no longer present to the happenings around me. I had slipped back into united consciousness. I opened my eyes and realized my efforts and wantings were the very thing that had been standing between myself and my Self. That this practice is indead a practice. It is a practice that yields great rewards, but the rewards are often unanticipated. In the sutras, they say the fruit of yoga sewn from the devotional heart is freedom, and ultimately love. And that is what brings me back. It is the thread that stitches my temperament, fears, and worries into compassion, understanding, and lightheartedness. It is the sweetness between the inhale and the exhale, and those fleeting moments of clarity and truth scattered throughout my day.

My teacher often says, “Let go of all you efforts.” It took my about one hundred times of hearing that before I could, but I suppose that is why they call it a practice.

Pose of the Week: Bird of Paradise

bird of paradise

Bird of Paradise

SVARGA DVIJASANA

Benefits of the pose:

  • Strengthens legs, hips, quads, and pelvis.
  • Opens the shoulders
  • Increase balance and body awareness
  • Strengthens Core and Abdominals
  • Lengthens the hamstrings

Asana breakdown:

Traditionally, I get into this posture from a variation of extended side angle. I take my hand that is placed on my thigh and reach it under my leg and bring my other hand to grasp it, coming into a bind, Utthita Parsvakonasana (Bound Extended Side Angle). From here, I take my back leg and bring it to the front of my mat, squaring both of my feet. Keeping in mind that I will pour my weight into the leg which is not bound by my hands, I find my drishti (gazing point) and slowly begin to rise up, keeping my bound leg bent. Once my spine is fully erect, I root down through my standing leg. Noticing my foot and toes, allowing them to unclench and find the four corners of the foot. I then draw my shoulder blades closer together, allowing the collarbones to lift and spread away from one another. Once I feel stable in my foundation and my gaze is locked on my drishti, I will extend the bound leg towards the sky. ❤

Troubles often encountered:

It is in the troubles or difficulties with this pose I feel most like a bird. For me, if I have not focused my mind and taken my awareness to the breath, I will begin to wobble, hop (with my leg raised), or loose my balance. My advice here is to release the pose. Come into Tadasana (Mountain) and take some grounding breathes. Assess why you are trying to get into this pose: is it ego or curiosity? Find your root through your mat and pour all of your energy into the quality of your breathe. The quality of the breathe will be the defining factor in all of your asanas, especially more difficult or new pose. When you are ready, reproach the asana with integrity and respect. Find your gazing point and come into your full expression. If you don’t get it on your first try, warm up the legs more with more hip openers and remember why we call it a practice.

Sources:

“Bird of Paradise – Svarga Dvijasana | GaiamTV.” Gaiam TV. Gaiam TV, n.d. Web. 23 Aug. 2015.

Editor, YJ. “Bird of Paradise: 5 Steps to Master This Standing Pose – Yoga Journal.” Yoga

Journal. Yoga Journal, 18 Nov. 2014. Web. 23 Aug. 2015.

When Life Gives You Lemons

We’ve all had those days…. The sours days that you wish you could just delete from the record or a string of really bad days that leave you feeling beaten and dejected. And sometimes it seems like everything just rubs you the wrong way. As a yogi, or as someone generally trying to be a decent person, when someone aggravates you almost want to skip over the anger. We try to cool our ego with compassionate lessons we’ve been taught: “Oh, we’re all one,” “They are just mirrors of my personality, so I’m really just aggravated by myself,” “They are doing the best they can,” etc. But, regardless of our best efforts we may still feel anger, and that anger turns to guilt and self-hatred. Before we know it, we have turned on ourselves. Unable to offer the same compassion and forgiveness that we are trying to give to someone else. And as the ego continues to churn out terrible thoughts, we are left with a choice: to either continue to run the hamster wheel of hatred until it spins out of our control, or find it with in ourselves to be with our emotions as they are. Sure, it is true we are all one and we are only hurting ourselves if we fail to see the fault within others is also a fault within ourselves. But if you can acknowledge that and, further more, accept those emotions as they arise, well…that is power my friend, and true self love. We do not have to be the angelic, passive, everything-is-always-fine yogi, because that is not our truth. Part of the beauty of yoga is being able to be firmly rooted in Satya (truth) and our truth is that we are beautiful human beings who are doing the best we can at our own level of awareness at any given moment. We find our lemonade in the sweetness of our own truth, emotion and owning ourselves as we are, regardless of whether or not we label that state of being as good or bad. So own your anger, and your bad days, and sit with it the thoughts and emotions as they arise with in. See what part is you, what part of it is ego, take the passive state as the observer, and when the anger and frustration ensue? Own it. Love it. And make lemonade.